DRC ex-warlord Bemba's aides held
25 November 2013, 11:19
Kinshasa - Four people close to former Congolese vice
president Jean-Pierre Bemba have been arrested on suspicion of tampering with
witnesses in the ex-warlord's war crimes trial in The Hague, the International
Criminal Court said on Sunday.
The chairperson of Bemba's opposition party the Movement for
the Liberation of Congo (MLC) said ICC warrants were carried out against
lawmaker Fidele Babala Wandu in Kinshasa and Bemba's lawyer Aime Kilolo at
The ICC confirmed a total of four arrests had been made,
including for Babala Wandu and Kilolo, plus a member of Bemba's defence team
and a defence witness. Arrests on charges of witness tampering are a first in a
case tried by the ICC.
Wandu was flown to The Hague late on Sunday.
The three other suspects would be transferred later,
according to the court.
MLC spokesperson Germain Kambinga told AFP Wandu was
arrested at his home overnight Saturday to Sunday by security forces holding
the ICC warrants.
He was being held in the prosecutor's office in Kinshasa.
"We did not know about this warrant. We were all surprised, we are in
shock," Kambinga said.
Wandu is "suspected of witness tampering in the Bemba
affair", Kambinga said, adding Kilolo is accused of having
"influenced witnesses in one way or another".
Following news of the arrests, members of the MLC met with
the president of the National Assembly, Aubin Minaku, to discuss the
"regrettable incident", Kambinga said.
The MLC later issued a statement denouncing the arrests
which the group said had been carried out in violation of national law and the
international court's own rules.
It also denounced the speed with which Kinshasa had carried
out the ICC's wishes "while other wanted Congolese benefit from its
Babala Wandu, 57, was Bemba's private secretary when he was
DRC's vice president from 2003 to 2006.
Bemba is on trial at the Hague-based court for three counts
of war crimes and two of crimes against humanity for widespread atrocities
committed in the Central African Republic by the DRC-based MLC between October
2002 and March 2003.
His troops allegedly murdered, raped and pillaged after
Bemba sent them into the country in late 2002 to help put down a coup against
then Central African president Ange-Felix Patasse.
Bemba has been detained by the ICC since 2008.
In The Hague, the ICC said in a statement that Wandu and
Kilolo, as well as a member of the Bemba defence team, Jean Jacques Mangenda
Kabongo, and a defence witness, Narcisse Arido, were detained in three European
countries and the DR Congo under the arrest warrant issued Wednesday.
"Judge Cuno Tarfusser found that there are reasonable
grounds to believe that these persons are criminally responsible for the commission
of offences against the administration of justice by corruptly influencing
witnesses before the ICC and presenting evidence that they knew to be false or
forged," the ICC said.
"The suspects, it is alleged, were part of a network
for the purposes of presenting false or forged documents and bribing certain
persons to give false testimony in the case against Mr Bemba."
The ICC said that Belgian authorities arrested Kilolo, the
Dutch detained Kabongo and the French arrested Arido, while Wandu was arrested
in the DRC.
They would all be handed over to the ICC.
The court added that "this warrant of arrest in respect
of the same charges was also served on Jean-Pierre Bemba at the ICC's detention